Wednesday, October 28, 2015

15 Ways for your Small Business to Save

Penny pinching for your business? It can be painful. Instead of getting frustrated, why not get frugal? Start by balancing your budget, separating your personal banking and business expense accounts and cleaning up your debt. There are many techniques for saving your business’s bottom line. Here are 15 ways you can implement simple changes and save.

Network (It)
  • Attend free and/or affordable workshops and events run by organizations like General Assembly to network with other small businesses and/or participate in ongoing education.
  • Host and/or co-host events with like-minded partners to deflect cost and get double the exposure for your brand and/or initiative.
  • Connect with your alma mater(s). Attend networking events that are often free for alumni. Offer to speak in front of alums and/or soon-to-be graduates on a topic in an area of your expertise.
  • Join or register your business with local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, applicable trade associations and Better Business Bureau.

Reward Yourself
  • When applying for credit or gas cards, cash back or point-collecting programs will prove thrifty. Take annual fees into consideration but more often than not, these cards act like a VIP pass. Same holds true for hotel and airline loyalty programs. These accounts will not only present amenities but enable you to track spending activity and evaluate where your business spends the most.
  • Join a wholesale shopping club like Costco or BJ’s. Necessities like paper supplies and printer cartridges can be more affordable when purchased in bulk. If you do buy a membership, always request a business account. Remember, keep it separate from your personal one so you can track spending and how long supplies last in the office.

Staff and Space
  • Growing and established businesses alike struggle with the hiring process. Save money, management sweat equity and time by employing a temp agency or hiring independent contractors.
  • Take advantage of universities in your surrounding community. College and Graduate students are often eager to apply their newly-acquired skills with businesses who support their education endeavors and offer opportunities in their area of study.
  • Embrace the telecommuter. Avoid office space headaches, like shifting of employees desks and/or the need to expand physical space all together by allowing staff to go "virtual."
  • For younger small businesses and/or businesses without a physical office space, consider utilizing community workspaces like WeWork and WorkBar. A business can rent coworking space by the day and/or maintain a dedicated space as well as access conference rooms.
  • On the road 24/7? Plan out your trip for the most direct route AND one based on where you can find free wifi. Cafes, sandwich shops, etc. are pretty commonplace for offering wifi to its customers free of charge.

Tackle Tech
  • Could your business benefit from streamlining your technology needs? Like small businesses, Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT (BBB) is consistently faced with finding ways to be financially efficient. In 2014, BBB merged hardware and software applications onto one platform. This decision to streamline with Google proved to be a profitable venture. Converting the staff to universal devices eliminated the need for full-time IT support and improved confidence regarding security. BBB's technology guru, Lisa Ventura, said:

Not only are we greatly reducing IT issues, we have saved roughly $900 per seat by purchasing Chromeboxes versus computers with added software. With a staff of approximately 50 people, that savings really adds up.

  • Be willing to invest your time in free online tools as part of your business plan. The art of engaging with your customers and customers-to-be online - if executed well - can be very rewarding for lead generation, customer retention, and more. Keep in mind, online tools don’t run themselves. Carving out time to participate in forums on topics you can add value to as well as having an active presence on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, not only increase your Internet footprint but won’t cost much (if anything) to incorporate into your marketing efforts. Sound like a lot? Find out and evaluate how and where your customers interact and spend your online-time accordingly.
  • YouTube can be a gateway to new customers as well as an effective branding tool. Content and quality are key there (as is keeping most videos under 90 seconds). Everyday devices like an iPhone can be used as a legitimate recording tool. A focused YouTube account allows you to effortlessly cross-promote video content via your website and/or social media accounts and can serve as a 'priceless' component of your marketing budget. Cue the Mastercard commercials.
  • Make a habit of periodically circling back to service providers like Internet, cable and cell phone. There are often promotions available at the start of a new quarter or a credit you might qualify for, especially if you are a loyal client.

Let the saving begin!

Did you know that 7 out of 10 consumers prefer to do business with an Accredited Business? Learn how to become part of a community of trustworthy businesses. If your business is already Accredited, find out how you can update your business online for free with Google and BBB and make it easier for people to find you online. For more information you can trust, visit us at, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How to Make Business Travel Less Turbulent

Despite much of today’s marketplace being well-suited for virtual management, in-person meetings and off site events continue to be a component of maintaining and growing your business. Out of town team gatherings as well as conferences or conventions are an opportunity for both personnel and brand strengthening. Before you check your bags, here are some items to check off the “travel to-do” list plus ideas for making your business travel less turbulent. 


Plan ahead. Research hotels in your destination city before committing to a stay for your business. Utilize online reviews to get a grasp on their reliability and learn past experiences of other guests who have stayed. Plus, plans can change. It’s always wise to understand a hotel or resort’s policies regarding length-of-stay -- make sure to ask questions on topics like cancellation and penalty fees before you book. Using a travel agent? Agencies can be helpful for package deals and learning about hidden gems but it’s crucial to do your due diligence before hiring an agency to avoid scams and misleading fine print. 

Ask away. Your lodging is in the business of hospitality, afterall. When you book your reservation, make requests that might make your stay more enjoyable. Traveling for work -- especially if across different time zones or jam-packed with obligations -- can be exhausting. Inquire about early and/or late check-in and if your routine includes regular exercise, ask for details on the gym. Does your room have a kitchenette? That’s a score, if so. On a recent trip, mine did and I brought along the ingredients to make my daily smoothie. It allowed me to maintain my morning routine despite not being in my own kitchen. 

It’s all in the details (make sure you know them). Are there multiple team members in the mix? Confirm who will be attending which session/dinner/client meeting, etc ahead of time. It also can’t hurt to familiarize yourself with the layout of the event space and/or area you’ll be staying in. If traveling alone, you could reach out to clients or colleagues in the area for tips and suggestions for staying there. Oh, and cell phone numbers -- you’d be surprised how many employees don’t communicate outside of work. Get co-workers' digits before you hit the road so you can keep in touch if edits and or issues arise.

Pack it up, pack it in. Do you literally sit on your suitcase before dragging it down two flights of stairs? Are you pulling things out of your bag at airport check-in because it’s overweight? Avoid the hassle and pack smart. Try not to (I admittedly find it hard to resist) bring too many options. It’s helpful to bring an extra outfit or two in case plans change but bringing three dresses or shirt/tie combos to choose between for that client dinner will only add to frustration courtesy of extra decision making. The time you spend deciding on what to wear subtracts time from something else you could be doing (i.e. networking, sightseeing or taking a nap). Try on and coordinate clothes before you include them in your “necessities” for the trip. With versatility in mind, take into consideration your color palette. Neutrals are your best travel friend! For example, bringing mostly black pieces of your wardrobe could allow you to get away with one pair of business-ready shoes and leaves room for a more casual or cocktail appropriate pair. Think about wearing the heaviest pair of shoes on the plane to save pounds on the luggage scale.

Communicate. Regardless of the role you play for your business, you’re important. An out-of-office signature on your email is the best way to spread the word with external contacts and a direct email and/or in-person conversation is probably best for communicating travel plans with your colleagues.


Organize from the start. Allow yourself time at the train station/airport to get organized. Separate out items you’d like to work on while in transit. This will alleviate the need to repeatedly access the overhead bin. 

Sounds good. You fully-charged your devices before you left home so you can use them during travel, right? Don’t forget your headphones so you can work without the background noise and/or listen to music to politely drown out that Chatty Cathy sitting behind you. Looking to catch-up on sleep? I never (ever) leave home without ear plugs.

More than you paid for. Upon check-in at your destination, why not ask if there are any free upgrades available? All they can say is “no” and if you belong to their rewards program, you’re considered a preferred customer. IF you don’t already belong to their program, ask to join with the caveat that you’d like a perk during your stay. A suite sounds nice. Or maybe it’s a noontime check out in advance of a late departing flight. 

Sleep soundly. You are where you are for a reason. You won’t be the same or nearly as productive without good sleep. What works when you’re at home? I sleep with a sound machine. When I travel, I use a free smartphone app that replicates it. It kind of feels like home and helps filter out other hotel noises in the night (also, see ear plugs above).


Pay it forward. Once back in the office, submit an online review for each of the businesses you interacted with. The hotel, convention center and restaurants you enjoyed during your trip will appreciate the feedback on their performance. These reviews allow other travelers to learn from your experience in preparation for their own. You benefited from someone’s feedback and they’ll benefit from yours. In addition, it gives the business you review a leg up on their competition and a stronger presence online. Via InsightSquared:

88% of consumers are influenced by online customer service reviews when making buying decisions and 58% are more likely to tell others about their customer service experiences than they were 5 years ago.

Reach out. Solidify connections you made via timely follow-up. Suggest that you find one another on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter. Remember, networking doesn’t end with an in-person meeting. Provide new contacts pertinent info from conversations you engaged in or topics you enjoyed at a joint-attended event. Keep the lines of communication open after the trip to avoid being out of sight and out of mind. 

Did you know that 7 out of 10 consumers prefer to do business with an Accredited Business? Learn how to become part of a community of trustworthy businesses. If your business is already Accredited, find out how you can update your business online for free with Google and BBB and make it easier for people to find you online. For more information you can trust, visit us at, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.